Thousands of Filipino employees of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) breathed a sigh of relief when President Rodrigo Duterte flip-flopped on July 30, reversing his decision to shut down all of their operations. Small Town Lotteries (STL) are still suspended though, and according to Senator Panfilo Lacson, it should stay that way.
Local media outlet ABS-CBN reports Lacson wants to permanently shut down STLs, Keno and Peryahan ng Bayan (a numbers game, think roulette but simpler). His reason isn’t very complicated or even a moral one. His theory is that these games serve as a cover for Jueteng (another, simpler numbers game, but more like a lottery), and by eliminating them, arresting those who offer Jueteng will be easier.
This is all about helping make the job of police easier, for Lacson. ”If we remove STL, a police officer can already arrest a bet collector the moment he sees him,” Lacson told reporters, although in Filipino. “It’s better if we just remove STL since government is being duped massively.”
Lacson’s numbers indicate that Jueteng operators bring in P73 billion ($1.43 billion) in profit per year in Metro Manila alone. That far out shadows the P4 billion ($78 million) the government rakes in from STLs.
From a distance, the government offerings don’t appear much different from the jueteng game, but there’s obviously a reason jueteng is preferred by locals. Considering the huge disparity in income from the two offerings, it’s very unlikely police didn’t know what was already going on and were just ignoring it.
Lacson’s argument that banning all STL options will make it easier for police to make arrests is farcical. Jueteng was never legal, and Filipinos were playing it in huge numbers more than anything that was regulated. Removing the only legal option isn’t going to change the equation, if anything it’s just going to drive the whole activity even deeper into the shadows.
Police weren’t willing to shut down jueteng before, there wasn’t any motivation to do so. If Lacson was right and STLs were acting as a cover for the illegal version of the same thing, at least it was keeping the activity relatively safe while police turned a blind eye. Removing the safe option entirely is just going to make everything more dangerous, but the games won’t stop.